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Cambodia: Latest Garment Export Figures Show Growth, Despite Unrest

Cambodia’s latest garment and footwear exports show growth for the first eight months of this year, indicating that ongoing strikes and strife over wages and rights haven’t affected the industry as adversely as expected.

Garment and footwear exports in the country brought in $3.92 billion, up more than 7 percent year-on-year, according to the country’s Ministry of Commerce, but the latest figures do show a slowdown after export earnings were up 16 percent in the first six months of 2014.

According to Cambodia Daily, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has been warning that the industry would suffer a dramatic drop as the consistent strikes have led other brands to manufacture elsewhere.

GMAC surveyed its members and said last month that many were experiencing declining orders, which forced them to cut back on overtime and cease production on some of their assembly lines.

The unrest in the low wage nation has largely been over a wage increase workers have been seeking in the past year. Local unions are fighting to see workers’ wages go from the current $100 to $177 per month. GMAC proposed raising the rate to $115 per month, but workers were displeased and have since continued to take a stance—in protests that at times turn violent—against what they consider a nominal increase.

Just Wednesday, one of 1,500 workers who have been striking at the Chinese-owned Y&W Garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district, was assaulted by factory security guards while protesting outside of the building. The workers have been striking for higher wages and the reinstatement of fired union representatives.

The 19-year-old worker said he suffered head injuries after four security guards kicked him off his motorbike and attacked him with a walkie-talkie, Cambodia Daily reported. Factory manager Eric Yang said he knew nothing about the incident.

Cambodia’s government-run Labor Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet Friday to announce a new minimum wage for apparel and textile workers, but at the last minute, the meeting was postponed until next month.